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The proceedings of the conference reveal Reverend Passi, Flo Kennedy and Eddie Mabo as the architects of resolutions calling for greater autonomy and control over land by Torres Strait Islanders:

This first resolution was passed at the beginning of the conference, following the defamatory attack on Shorty O'Neill made under parliamentary privilege the previous day by Queensland Aboriginal and Island Affairs Minister Ken Tomkins (reported in Courier-Mail and Townsville Bulletin 28 August 1981):

This conference condemns Mr. K. Tomkins, Queensland Minister for Water Resources and Aboriginal Affairs, for his character assassination of Shorty O'Neill, executive member of the North Queensland Land Council and Manager of the North Queensland Black Publishing Company. It is unfortunate that Mr Tomkins hides behind parliamentary privilege. The Conference calls on Mr Tomkins to repeat those statements publicly without the protection of Parliament so that legal action for malicious slander and defamation can immediately be commenced. The conference considers that Shorty O'Neill is in very good company; the World Council of Churches delegation to Australia was similarly subjected to malicious slander by the Queensland government.

This conference recognizes that the prerequisite of Aboriginality is cultural loyalty and not any false nineteenth century genetic theory. This conference wishes to make clear that both Shorty O'Neill and Marcia Langton are not present at today's session solely for the reason, as known to the conference organizers, of their pre-arranged commitment to open the Central Queensland Land Council in Rockhampton today. However, they will be subsequently participating in this conference.

Character assassination is no substitute for full land rights and self-determination for the Aboriginal people of Queensland. This conference would also like to contrast the attitude of the Minister to that of the Townsville City Council, which yesterday formally accepted the National Aboriginal Flag from Mr. O'Neill.

Moved: Henry Reynolds
Seconded: Unidentified
Carried Unanimously

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The following resolutions were passed at the plenary session, on Sunday 30 August:

1. This conference demands that the Queensland government immediately issue a definite statement of its plans for Aboriginal and Islander people in Queensland.

Moved: T Bland
Seconded: Les Collins
Carried unanimously

2. This conference recognises that the Aboriginal/Islander people were 'in possession' of this land (Australia) prior to 1770 and because no suitable measure (i.e. suitable to the Aboriginal/Islander people) has been taken to legalise settlement, the Aboriginal/Islander people still exist as a Nation separate from that declared the Australian nation in 1901.

Moved: Les Collins
Seconded: Les Malezer
Carried unanimously

3. This conference resolves that no action to be taken by the National Aboriginal Conference and the Federal parliament or any other body to in any way move on to or codify the 'would be Makarrata' or come to any agreement without full consultation with all Aboriginal & Islander people, as this conference considers it would fundamentally prejudice the strategic options of the Aboriginal & Islander people (Nation).

Moved: B. Button
Seconded: N. Geia
Carried unanimously

4. This conference expresses its deep concern as expressed by the Aboriginal and Islander people, at the national Aboriginal Conference's consultative procedure in relation to the 'proposed Makarrata'. We note that few Aboriginal people are fully aware of the consequences of the NAC's Makarrata proposal which is not the proposed Treaty but only an 'agreement that all is well after the fighting'. We therefore resolve to demand of the NAC that it defer any further steps toward the Makarrata until there is a credible consensus amongst Aboriginal people as to how we will achieve land rights and self-determination including acceptable living conditions.

Moved: M. Morris
Seconded: T McAvoy
Carried unanimously

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5. This conference calls on the full Federal parliament to immediately cease money supply to the Queensland government's Department of Aboriginal & Islander Advancement and Aboriginal Health Program as:

♦ Those State Dept/programs are directly opposed to basic right of self-determination.

♦ The 1967 referendum clearly shows that the overwhelming majority of Australian tax-payers do not support the racist policies of the Queensland government and thus do not authorise the Federal government to spend their tax-payments on the maintaining and practising of racism.

♦ The 1975 Racial Discrimination Act states that it is illegal for any person to assist or promote whether by financial assistance or otherwise the performing of such racist activities.

Further that the amounts allocated from federal funding to the NAIHO and the Queensland Health Department be redirected to the Aboriginal controlled health services and to the NAIHO fund to establish further Aboriginal-controlled health services in Queensland.

This conference also makes it clear that it is truly a strange and unacceptable situation where the Federal government on the one hand funds the Queensland government to create problems for Aboriginal & Islander people and then funds Aboriginal & Islander community-controlled organisations to alleviate and/or undo those problems on the other.

Moved: Shorty O'Neill
Seconded: Les Collins
Carried unanimously

6. This conference gives its full support to the Brisbane Tent Embassy and urges the Brisbane City Council and all people of good will to give their full support to this continuing reminder of Aboriginal & Islander struggle, particularly against the racist Queensland government.

Moved: Bertie Button.
Seconded: Steve Walsh
Carried unanimously

7. This conference calls on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled to take place at Melbourne in September 1981 to fully debate the World Council of Churches Report and to raise the demands of the Aboriginal and Islander Nation as listed:

♦ Full land rights and self-determination.
♦ Full sea rights extending 20 miles.

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♦ Reparation for genocide on which Australia is built.

Moved: Mike Rosser
Seconded: Les Collins
Carried unanimously

8. This conference calls on all anti-apartheid organisations (nationally and internationally) to recognise that the Queensland Aboriginal Act was the basis for the South African apartheid system of on-going genocide and emasculation.

Moved: Steve Walsh
Seconded: Kevin Wyman
Carried unanimously

9. This conference urges the Queensland Aboriginal Advisory Council, the Aboriginal & Islander Commission and Aboriginal community organisations to seek exhaustive legal advice on the conditions to be placed by the Queensland government on the proposed 50-year leasehold and/or perpetual leaseholds to replace the Aboriginal reserves and to seek advice on inalienable freehold title for Aboriginal people.

The conference is concerned that the condition as set out in the Land Act 1962-1968 and the possible changes to be introduced by the Queensland government have not been brought to the attention of these two bodies nor the Queensland Aboriginal/lslander reserve population.

This conference is concerned that the Aboriginal Advisory Councillors are being manipulated into making uninformed decisions and ignoring the wishes of the Aboriginal/lslander reserve residents for full land rights and self-determination.

Moved: M. Langton
Seconded: Nat Geia
Carried unanimously

10. This conference calls on the churches to return land presently held by them to the Aboriginal self-determination struggle groups in keeping with the World Council of Churches Report.

Moved: Bob Collins
Seconded: Roberta Felton
Carried unanimously

11. This conference is in keeping with the requests of Aboriginal/ Islander struggle groups in Queensland, calls on all Commonwealth countries to boycott the 1982 Commonwealth Games to be staged in Brisbane, as solid rejection of racism as

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practised by the Queensland government and in support of the demands of the Aboriginal & Islander struggle groups which are:

♦ Full inalienable land rights and self-determination.
♦ Full sea rights extending 20 miles.
♦ Reparation for genocide on which Queensland is built.

Moved: Les Collins
Seconded: Steve Walsh
Carried unanimously

12. This conference views with concern the NAC monopoly on representation for the Pacific on the World Council of Indigenous Peoples Executive Committee and at General Assemblies.
This conference demands that the Pacific representatives be elected by general elections amongst the Pacific rather than by appointment by the NAC Executive.
Further this conference recognises the plight of indigenous minorities of Southeast Asia as part of our struggle and demands that the NAC meet its obligations as stated at the WCIP 3rd General Assembly in Canberra and ensure proper representation for these peoples.

Moved: Marcia Langton
Seconded: Shorty O'Neill
Carried unanimously

13. This conference deplores the Federal government's refusal to respond to the persistent and unswerving demands from the Yarrabah people for land rights and self-determination.

Moved: Shorty O'Neill
Seconded: M. Lawrence
Carried unanimously

14. This meeting condemns the stand taken by the Premier of Queensland and his outmoded statements regarding land rights, and further condemns his intention of opposing, through the High Court, and Federal action to be taken as a result of the Bill being presented in the Senate by Senator Ryan.

Moved: Tom Bland
Seconded: Cherie Imlah
Carried unanimously

15. This conference notes the recent proposals in the NT to introduce legislation which will be repressive to Aboriginal people, such as:

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♦ to give the NT Chief Minister outright power to proscribe organisations without explanation and to jail for three years mandatory people who demonstrate or for 7 years people who cause disaffection towards the NT government.

♦ to exile Aboriginal people from white townships if they are put in protective custody for being drunk more than twice in any one year.

This conference fully supports the people of the Northern Territory in their struggle against these repressive types of legislation, and demands that the Federal government exercise its power to disallow the NT legislation when the NT government enacts it.

This conference calls on all participant organisations to bring maximum pressure on the Federal government to start exercising its responsibilities and obligations towards Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, instead of caving in to the developers, miners, pastoralists and the Country/Liberal Party at every turn.

Moved: L. Corpus
Seconded: M. Lawrence
Carried unanimously

16. This conference demands that the Northern Territory government fund the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Protection Authority for this financial year sufficient to at least maintain the same level of activities as it was carrying out at the time funding was recently transferred from the Federal government by a decision of the Razor Gang (that is, $450,000 as opposed to $223,000).

This conference calls on the Federal government to ensure that the Northern Territory Aboriginal Sacred Sites Protection Authority (set up under NT law and the Federal Land Rights Act) is funded sufficiently to meet the requirements of Aboriginal people who demand the protection of their sacred, significant and historic sites.

Moved: Frank Sebastian
Seconded: Shorty O'Neill
Carried unanimously

17. That this conference recognises:

♦ that gross injustices still exist in the NT in relation to land rights;

♦ that more than 80% of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory do not yet have any land rights;

♦ that 60% of Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory is held by pastoral leases at the moment;
therefore, that this conference fully supports the struggle of the Northern Territory Aboriginal people to stop the proposed further
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dismantling of the Northern Territory Land Rights Act by the unrelenting pressure of the NT Country/Liberal Party government. Party government.
Moved: Marcia Langton
Seconded: Thelma McAvoy
Carried unanimously

18. This conference calls upon the Federal Attorney-General to intervene immediately to take up the challenge by the Queensland government to the validity of the federal Racial Discrimination Act 1975 by:

1. Moving in the High Court that the challenge contained in the defence by the Queensland government in the Supreme Court of Queensland to the case by the Winychanam people be removed to the High Court for urgent determination; IT BE NOTED that this action needs to be taken before September 14. 2. Ensuring the Commonwealth government takes responsibility for the defence Or Its own racial discrimination legislation and not leave It to be defended by the oppressed and deprived Winychanam people.

Moved: Marcia Langton
Seconded: L Johnson
Carried unanimously

19. This conference resolves that ALL sacred objects of the Aboriginal people which have been taken from them by ANY MEANS WHATSOEVER must be returned to their owners.

Further this conference calls on all churches, universities, institutes, museums and any other bodies in Australia, Europe, the USA and elsewhere to EFFFCT such return.

Moved: S. Gordon
Seconded: D Benson
Carried unanimously

20. That this conference strongly support the proposal of the Torres Strait Islanders for inalienable freehold title of all land presently designated Reserve Land under the Queensland Land Act 1962-1978 and the Torres Strait Islanders Act.

Moved: Fr Passi
Seconded: Flo Kennedy
Carried unanimously

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21. That this conference strongly support the proposal of Torres Strait Islanders for direct control of Islanders affairs by Islanders.

Moved: Flo Kennedy
Seconded: Eddie Mabo
Carried unanimously

22. That this conference urge the Torres Strait Advisory Council to negotiate with the Commonwealth government as well as the State government in relation to:
(a) transferring of inalienable freehold title to Islanders.
(b) Islanders having direct control over their affairs.

Moved: Flo Kennedy
Seconded: Thelma McAvoy
Carried unanimously

23. This conference strongly supports the demand of Islanders in Torres Strait and Townsville for direct control of Islanders' affairs including control of land and sea and sea-bed and all natural resources of the area to be controlled by the Council.

Moved: E. Mabo
Seconded: Shorty O'Neill
Carried unanimously

24. This conference calls on the Queensland State government and the Commonwealth government to confer directly with Torres Strait leaders to commence negotiations for immediate transfer of the area to the Commonwealth government.
Following this resolution-
The Commonwealth government to establish a Constitutional Committee which should consist of Islanders in order to draft a Constitution which should be based on the economy and culture of the area. This Committee may seek advice from representatives of the Commonwealth government and members of the legal profession as advisers.
This committee be responsible for holding an election on an adult franchise basis in order to elect the first Regional Democratic Government for the region.

Moved: Eddie Mabo
Seconded: Flo Kennedy
Carried unanimously

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25. This conference calls upon the Federal government to initiate an independent enquiry into the removal of mixed race aboriginal children from their homeland with a view to:
1. Establishing a body to trace such children.
2. To the official recognition of mixed-race Aboriginals by the Northern Territory government as Aboriginals.
3. Payment of reparations to injured parties.
4. To ensure the ability of mixed-race Aboriginals to enjoy the benefits available to Aboriginals noticeably absent in the consideration of cases presented to the Land Commission.
5. That the enquiry be conducted by a Committee of Parliament.
Moved: Louise Corpus
Seconded: Bob Collins
Carried unanimously

26. This conference calls on all non-Aboriginal/Islander people in Australia to pay $1.00 on each and every National Aborigines Day payable to the Aboriginal Self-determination Fund and ask the churches to give immediate effect to this resolution amongst their membership as reparation for genocide (as West Germany paid reparation for the partial extermination of Jews).

Moved: Les Collins
Seconded: Paul Stevens
Carried unanimously

27. This conference resolves that it is in the interest of the self determination struggle of the Aboriginal people that non-governmental Aboriginal People's land councils and Struggle Groups be assured the minimum funding required to retain their integrity as representatives of the Aboriginal struggle.

To that end this conference calls on all participants and all people of good will to contribute by way of Monthly Bankers' Orders to the ABORIGINAL SELF-DETERMINATION FUND established at Alice Springs and operated by the joint signature of Father Pat Dodson and Bob Durnam.

From the said fund equal amounts will be paid quarterly to the following:
♦ North Queensland Land Council (at Cairns)
♦ North Queensland Black Publishing Company (al Townsville)
♦ Central Queensland Land Council (at Rockhampton);
♦ Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action - for South Queensland (at Brisbane)
♦ The Nomads Charitable & Educational Foundation (Pilbara/Strelly mob);
♦ Kimberleys Land Council (at Derby);

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♦ Darwin Land Rights Support Group (Aboriginal Organiser for
Arnhem Land);
♦ South Eastern Land Council (Victoria);
♦ Now South Wales Land Council (at Sydney);*
♦ Tasmanian Aboriginai Centre (at Hobart);*
♦ Aboriginal Mining Information Centre (at Melbourne);
♦ Torres Strait lslander Land Rights Committee.

As additional groups may evolve and in order to meet changing circumstances it shall rest on the unanimous decision of the operational signatories to said fund and Shorty O'Neill to decide either that additional groups be added to those to be funded or that groups which are to be funded be deleted;it shall be incumbent on these persons to delete any organisation/group which in future becomes a statutory body and/or receives significant government funding for operational costs. These same three persons shall by their unanimous decision appoint another person In the Alice Springs area who shall automatically replace either Father Pat Dodson or Bob Durnam in the event of resignation, demise or mental Incapacity as may be determined by a court of law of either.
Properly the costs of organising and administering such fund shall be borne by said fund.
In keeping with the World Council of Churches Report this conference calls on ail churches to mobilise their members to contribute to this fund.
*It is to be confirmed that such organisation/group is not a statutory body and/or receiving significant government funds.

Moved jointly by: Eddie Mabo
  Frank Sebastian
  Les Collins
  Bertie Button
  Shortly O'Neill

Seconded by: Marcia Langton
  S. Gordon
  Bob Collins
  Bob Weatherall

Carried unanimously.

28. This conference demands of the Federal government that following the introduction of the Human Rights Commission Act, the Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations be preserved with at least the same powers, funding and administrative capabilities that it now has.
Moved: Betty McLellan
Seconded: T. Benson
Carried unanimously
Keywords: conference, Kennedy, Flo, Land Rights Conference, 1981, Mabo, Edward Koiki, Passi, Reverend Dave, The Townsville Conference, 1981

Author: Kenna, Jonathan